Jeff Pearlman

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David Moscow

#224
What happens when the kid from 'Big' turns big? He tracks wolves, learns to cry, starts his own production company, co-stars with Jessica Alba, dates Kerry Washington, backs Bernie Sanders, marries the love of his life and still makes time for the ol' Zoltar machine. POSTED September 15, 2015

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So a few weeks ago I was watching Back to The Future with my nephews, and it occurred to me that the story concerns a guy, Marty McFly, who travels back in time a whopping 30 years, from 1985 to 1955 … as we were watching 30 years after the movie’s release.

Trippy, right? But not nearly as trippy as the existence of today’s Quaz, and his relationship with time’s eternal ticking clock.

Back in 1988, when he was 13, David Moscow made his cinematic debut in “Big,” portraying a 12-year-old boy (Josh Baskin) who wishes to be big, then wakes up as 32-year-old Tom Hanks. Well—in a twist that makes my head spin—Moscow is now eight years older than Hanks was at the time. He’s fully big.

He also happens to be fully fascinating. David has lived a rich theatrical life, appearing in such wide-ranging vehicles as “Kate and Allie,” “Newsies” and “Seinfeld.” He starred on Broadway; tracked wolves in Arizona and New Mexico; talked surfing with Uma Thurman; dated Kerry Washington; voted for Ralph Nader. On and on and on. As you read this, he’s hoping a clever, funny Kickstarter campaign can help his directorial debut, Desolation, reach audiences sooner than later. He’s one of the few Quazes I’ve met over lunch, and I could have stayed another three hours. Riveting dude.

David lives in Southern California with his wife Karen. You can check out his IMDB page here and read more about his new project here.

David Moscow, you are the only man to have ever played “Jimmy Wiggen” in The Wizard of Loneliness. And now you are the only man to ever be the 224th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So David, my first book was about the 1986 Mets. It came out 12 years ago. And people sometimes say, “Oh, I loved that book!” And I feel like it was another part of my life; like it wasn’t even me. And here you are, three decades removed from the biggest role of your life. When people are like, “Oh, I love ‘Big‘!” Do you still have a connection, or are you like, “Um, I was 13”?

DAVID MOSCOW: It’s such just a part of my life that you don’t even think about it. People come up to me … I can tell, if we were just sitting here and someone was about to come up to me in five minutes, I could see already that whispers were gonna happen and I could probably tell you what movie they were going to say I like you for. The big three are Big, Newsies and Honey. By far those are the big three.

J.P.: Is ‘Big’ a huge frontrunner?

D.M.: No, because it was wasn’t the latest. At this point Honey and Newsies. Newsies is just one of those cult films. But it’s just part of my existence.

J.P.: You have no beef with it?

D.M.: No beef at all. I go around the world and people smile at me and are happy to see me. That’s phenomenal to have that. There was a period of time … I was a child actor, then stopped for two years. Went to college for two years. I went to Hampshire, then Columbia. That didn’t work. I dropped out of Hampshire, then went and tracked wolves in Arizona and New Mexico for Arizona Fish and Game. Because they were reintroducing captive bred wolves, and they needed to know if there was a viable population that was still there. So I lived out in forest service cabins for eight, nine months. And I did botanical surveys and tracked wolves. And tracking wolves was literally, you had headphones and a headset and you would go HOOOOOWWWWWWL! and then you’d wait and hear in the distance HOOOOOWWWWWWL! Then you would walk and try and find it. You’d find tracks.

J.P.: Um, was it scary?

D.M.: No. It was amazing. The only scary thing was one night a buddy of mine had gone out … you pack your bags, and you’re with eight people and you tell them, “OK, we’re going to check out this district in the park.” It’d take you a week to walk. And we’d always find out where there were hot springs, and we’d be like, “That’s where we’re going to check out!” So we went out to the hot springs and we’re laying out one night. It’s me and a guy named Rich, who was also in the program. And we had a fire and we heard a crash in the brush, around the bend of the river. We were startled, but then we went back to bed. And when we woke up in the morning we see at the edge of the fire light where a mountain lion had bedded down and basically sat there and watched us all night. And we went around the bend and found the deer that had been killed was covered. So obviously a cat had been following us. And the cats follow you when you’re in there. That was the only time it was scary …

J.P.: “David Moscow, the boy best known for his role as a young Tom Hanks in the film Big, was found …”

D.M.: That’s right. That’s right. I was flying to Sundance this one time, and coming over into Utah there’s always terrible turbulence because of the mountains. And Nick Nolte was on the flight. The turbulence was so bad everyone was screaming, freaking out. And all I kept thinking was, “Nick Nolte … and others died on this flight …”

J.P.: Well, you’re an “other.”

D.M.: Exactly.

From his breakout role in 'Big.'

From his breakout role in ‘Big.’

J.P.: So, to the beginning. Why become an actor?

D.M.: I was 11, and I was a rambunctious child. In today’s world I probably would have been all doped up. But I was just running around like crazy. It was guitar lessons, science—just trying to find things to keep me occupied. And my fifth grade teacher put me in the class play.

J.P.: Do you remember her name?

D.M.: Mrs. Cannon. And Mr. Herb Bernstein, my sixth grade teacher, got me in the next year’s play. It was called A Tale of Two Detectives. There were two stories, two one acts, two detectives solving the case in two different plays. It was a cool idea. Then Mr. Bernstein put a clipping that was a film called Five Corners with Jodie Foster and Jon Leguizano. They were looking for 10-year-old white kids from the Bronx. So I went down on my bike with some friends. We all auditioned and they liked me.

J.P.: Do you remember it well?

D.M.: I don’t remember any of the lines. But I remember the room. It’s a memory of a memory, kind of. I remember the room and them saying goodbye to me. It was at Lehman College. They called and wanted me for the part, but my parents had been saving money for me to visit my aunt in Spain in the summer, so we turned down the role. And I went to Europe.

J.P.: Were you heartbroken?

D.M.: We didn’t have a TV, so I didn’t really know. I’d maybe seen two movies at that point my entire life.

J.P.: What?

D.M.: My aunt took me to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And I saw Fantasia. I remember it was Fantasia because when we got back from Fantasia my house had been robbed. That’s probably why we didn’t go to any movies; we were afraid our house would be robbed. Those were the two movies I’d seen. So when I got back from Spain the casting directors had given my name to an agent who called. It was the big New York youth agent at the time—J. Michael Bloom was the agency, I met with a woman named Heidi, and she liked me. And then I auditioned for Kate and Allie. I did that show. That was my first audition.

J.P.: What do you remember of Kate and Allie?

D.M.: I did two episodes. It was a lot of fun. The audience laughing was like the coolest thing ever. And I loved Jane Curtain—we got along really well. It was a blast. Again, everyone was sort of happy to see you. And my second audition was for Big, but that was with Robert De Niro and Penny Marshall, not Hanks. I auditioned with Penny. I went into a room with 10 kids and Penny just talked to us. She’d be like, “You? Where you from? What are you doing?” I think I got a callback to play the best friend, and then when Hanks got it … she’s from the Bronx, and she’s like, “Where’s that kid from the Bronx? He looks like Tom.” And that was it.

J.P.: Is that as enormous a life changer as it seems?

D.M.: I mean, when I first started acting I was very lucky or successful. Or maybe both. I booked the first four things I auditioned for. I think that’s because I was new and I was this weird kid who had these radical parents and had no boundaries and was loud and chatty. And it was, “Oh, that’s interesting.” I was very precocious. Which, in school, is very annoying. But in an audition it’s exactly the type of kid they want.

With Jessica Alba in Honey.

With Jessica Alba in Honey.

J.P.: Where’d you grow up?

D.M.: I’m from New York. I mean, we moved around a lot. Grand Concourse, Preston Avenue, Kings Bridge, Davidson Avenue, um, and we ended up Van Cortland Park. And moving around as a kid anyway is tough, especially as a guy. But moving around in the Bronx is something else.

J.P.: What’d your parents do? Why so many moves?

D.M.: My mom, Patricia, was a nurse … studying to be a nurse. My dad, Jon, was a community activist. Like a radical. He loves my Bernie Sanders shirt.

J.P.: What does that mean—’like a radical’?

D.M.: To go back even further, my parents were both radicals in the 1960s and 70s, and still through today. There was a certain point where my dad was considered armed and dangerous by the FBI. What’s wild is now it’s the kind of stuff that’s largely considered normal today. Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, labor laws, pre-labor, social services, the safety net. He worked with the Black Panthers in Portland, Oregon

J.P.: Wait. Aren’t you Jewish?

D.M.: Half. My dad is Jewish, my mom is Mormon. I was raised neither. Non-religious, but culturally, I guess, both. We did all the holidays. We did Passover and Christmas with her family. And my parents met in Portland. My dad was going to Reed College. He grew up on Long Island, and at 13 he joined Core (Congress of Racial Equality), which was a civil rights organization. He became chair of the housing committee of Long Island CORE when he was 15. And he graduated from high school early and went to Reed to get as far away from his parents as possible. And the first time my mom saw him he was getting arrested at a demonstration in Oregon, and she thought he was cute. He was cursing a cop outside the Frye roofing company. I think Nixon was coming to a factory, and they were demonstrating the Nixon visit. And Pat came up to him as he was cursing the cop. My dad had to subpoena my mom because she saw his arrest. She thought he was cute And in his big seduction move he invited her to a meeting and when they got to the meeting there was nobody else there. And he said, “Oh, I guess I got the date wrong. You wanna just go out to a movie?”

He worked with Kent Ford, who was the head of the Panthers in Oregon. My dad also became this guy—they were building health clinics and dental clinics there. Something a lot of people don’t know is California became the first state to do breakfast programs and lunch programs at schools and it was because the Panthers in Oregon were giving out free breakfast and lunch, and the state was like, “Oh, my God. They’re accruing lots of power. We have to do this!” They were sort of doing the same thing but with health care up in Oregon. And my dad came on and fund-raised, made connections to doctors, dealt with the city …

J.P.: So how did they pay the bills?

D.M.: It was sketchy. My dad delivered a radical newspaper called the Willamette Bridge. And he wrote. It was a whole group of people. And in New York, for a period of time, he did typesetting for Penthouse and High Times to make a little cash on the side, while writing radical newsletters and stuff like that. And he did computer stuff for Y&R, a big advertising company. There was a period of time where he and my mom—we were on welfare. I mean, it wasn’t pretty. But we also lived six, seven people in the house. I have a younger brother, Lev, he’s a teacher in New York. But a whole bunch of radicals all lived in the same house, shared the bills.

With his wife, Karen.

With his wife, Karen.

J.P.: Random question—how many times in your life have you watched ‘Big’ start to finish?

D.M.: Start to finish? Maybe 10.

J.P.: Do you enjoy watching it?

D.M.: It’s a great movie. And Hanks is phenomenal. Phenomenal.

J.P.: Are you phenomenal?

D.M.: In that? No. I’m good … I’m OK. But kid actors today are 10 times better than kid actors were expected to be back then. Be charming, smile and look cute. And then people hand you checks. But today—this kid from Sixth Sense was Academy Award-worthy. These kids are touching places within themselves that I didn’t really discover until I was, like, 19-years old.

J.P.: So you didn’t have a motivation in ‘Big’? Like, what’s your motivation in this scene?

D.M.: Nah. Penny in that one would be like, “Much sadder.” You know? Without any training. And because I never watched films as a kid I was a clean slate. Which was good, I think. But I started to run into problems was when I got to about 17 or 18, where you start getting kids who have been raised on film; kids who have been going to school and are hyper-talented and have tools. And I was still just smiling and, you know, I had gotten two or three big things young. You can ride that for a little bit even if you’re not particularly good. That’s why I stopped. I was starting to go into auditions and it was hard. Like, you’d have to cry.

J.P.: Could you cry on demand?

D.M.: At that time, no.

J.P.: Can you make yourself cry now?

D.M.: Yeah.  But the big change that occurred was … so I stopped tracking the wolves, went to Columbia, and got a Broadway show while at Columbia. It was called What’s Wrong With This Picture? So this was 1994. Donald Margulies wrote it and Joe Mantello directed. Faith Prince, who had just won the Tony for Guys and Dolls, was in it. And I was the lead and I was not very good. So the story is about, my mother died, my dad and I can’t connect, so she comes back from the dead to help us bond. And at the end I have to turn to her and say, “How can I ever miss you if you never leave?” So she walks out the door, and I’m supposed to turn around and bawl. And it wasn’t happening—all through previews.

J.P.: You could not cry?

D.M.: I was on stage being like … I was the lead in the show, and I was sitting there thinking, “I’m gonna have Greek food tonight. I’ll call up Earnest.” And then it’d be my line and I’d say my line, and then when it was done I’d go right back to thinking about Greek food. So I’d get to the end, and I’d be standing there, and … nothing. So the producers sat me down and they said, “You have to cry! The blue hairs in the front row need to have this emotional thing. Can we put pictures on the table and you walk down from the door and sit down and look at the pictures. Will that help you?” I’ll try—but nothing. So it’s a week to go in previews, and I’m like, holy shit. This is terrifying. And now there are all these rumors how Sean Penn is a character from the moment he wakes up all the way through a whole shoot. He never leaves character. What would that be like? I’m gonna try it. So I got up and I was Peter every day, all the way through to opening night. And I think the third day I tried it, I say, “How can I ever miss you if you never leave?” and I close the door and I turn around and—whoosh! Tears. I didn’t have to go down and look at any photos. The old ladies in front were clapping, the audience was clapping. And I was like, “Oh, this shit is good. I like that. Whatever that is, I want more of that.”

So I joined a theater company with some friends. It was very small, so we all sort of ran it together. It was called A Theater Co., and it was in the basement of these lofts in West Chelsea. Back then it was like you rode on your bike and transsexual hookers would step out of the doorway. But what was cool about the space was there was a 200 seater we could do, a 50 seater, and the lobby was good for art stuff. There were two days out of the year where we’d do a full day of three plays, back to back to back.

And I got real snotty about acting, about being an artist. People would come up to me about “Big,” and I’d be like, “I’m beyond that.” But I also got better. We would change plays every two weeks. You’d get a call at 3 o’clock in the morning—“I wanna do 4-H Club. Tomorrow we’ll build a set.” You could see it in the auditions I was doing at the same time. Whenever I talk to young people here who wanna start, I say, “Find a theater company where you can work a lot, and just put yourself up there. You will soon realize if you belong in this business. The audience will tell you and your cast members will tell you. If you keep getting hired to do work you’re doing something good. And you should stick around.”

So from that I started getting indie movies. I had a small part in a film called Hurricane Streets which ended up winning Sundance that year. And then I had a role in two films the following year—Restaurant and River Red. They both went to Sundance.

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The Playbill from, ‘What’s Wrong With This Picture?’

J.P.: Does Sundance matter to you?

D.M.: It’s fun. Yeah, it’s fun. Especially during that period of time. I was such the snob, I was like, “I’m at Sundance!” Now I’ve been there a bunch and it’s a fun time and you see a bunch of friends; the same people you see here but you get to see them there. And my Mormon side is all in Utah so I party with my cousins.

J.P.: Do you go out drinking with your Mormon cousins?

D.M.: I do. The Jack Mormons—the ones who have fallen off. But the other ones ski and snowboard. So I go snowboarding with those guys.

J.P.: Do you feel like it’s a rite of passage for young actors to come up and go through a douche baggy stage where you’re arrogant and overrate your importance?

D.M.: You know, to the outside world it may ring douchey. But it’s important to the craft. It’s like being a grad student. There’s a great line in 30 Rock. He’s the second worst person in the world. And she asks, “Who’s the worst person in the world?” And he goes, “Grad students.” It’s a great line. You have to get intense about something and care about something. You have to in order to stand up and give a thesis or deliver a line. Because people are going to attack what you have to say. So you have to maybe put up this omnipotent front that says, “I own this place.” So I think it’s good.

J.P.: Did you have dreams of being the next De Niro, the next Robert Redford …

D.M.: Yeah. Particularly during that period of time I probably felt like I was the best actor in New York. But I also had the fire for that. I was drinking and doing drugs and out until the wee hours of the morning for the experiences. Nothing was more important than that. De Niro was going to direct a movie about the beginning of the porn industry, and he got all of his friends to come do a reading. They were looking for a kid to do the reading and play a young Sean Penn. And they called me up and I was like, “I’ve made it!” And of course, it never works out how you think. I did the reading, it was phenomenal, I was going surfing later that day. It was John Turturro, Sean Penn, Chaz Palminteri, Uma Thurman. Just great. And this kid who was playing the young Turturro was sitting at another table with me. We’re sitting at this table talking surfing, because I was going to go out to Montauk to surf. And Sean Penn came over and sat down and said, “Really?” He started talking surfing with us. Because Penn was there, Uma Thurman comes over. Then Chaz Palminteri comes over. And pretty soon the whole table is around us. Holy smokes, this is magic!

J.P.: You didn’t get the part?

D.M.: He never made the movie. He ended up selling the rights to Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen and they made it.

J.P.: Did you see it?

D.M.: It was on Showtime. I did see it.

J.P.: Were you pissed?

D.M.: No. No. If it was De Niro and Sean Penn and I hadn’t gotten the part, sure.

J.P.: What do you want in your life now?

D.M.: I enjoy the theater company. I’ve started a production company that sort of does that but for film. I have a band of people and investors.

J.P.: So I’ve sold a couple of my books for movie rights. First time it happens—amazing! Movie! And they tell you who they’re looking at, the director. And the last time it happened, I had zero excitement because I had no faith. And I don’t know how anyone lives in this world. Because they tell you everything is great, they love everything, we know who’s gonna do this and this. I don’t get excited anymore. Is it all bullshit? Do you have to get used to people feeding you bullshit?

D.M.: No, no. Because now I’m on the other side.

J.P.: You’re the feeder?

D.M.: But it’s not bullshit. What happens is you read something and you think it’s fucking great. And it is great. And then the journey is so huge that it’s a fucking crapshoot. What you hope to gain is a champion. If you have a champion these guys will work their ass off, because they don’t want to waste their time. But it’s not bullshit. It’s both great and terrible. Like, you go into meetings … we have the life rights to this Mexican singer named Chalino Sanchez. Incredible story. He was huge. He created this kind of music called narco-corrido—he sings about cartels. And cartels would hire him and he would sing about them. And then another cartel would sweep in and hire him away. And the other cartel would try and kill him.

So literally he’s on stage in front of 15,000 people, someone pulls out a gun trying to kill him, he pulls out his gun to protect himself. He was a bandito wild man. And then he ended up going back to Sinaloa, his hometown. It was the first time he’d been there in, like, 30 years; at 13 he shot the local cartel leader because the guy raped his sister, and he escaped to LA. He’s like, “I’m going back down.” Everyone tells him not to go. There’s a documentary on YouTube, “The Dangerous Life of Chalino Sanchez.” He’s singing away, and someone hands him a note. And his face collapses. The note says, “You’re gonna die.” He’s found dead an hour later on the side of the road. I bought the life rights from his wife. And then at the funeral the band is playing, no one is singing because he’s in the casket. And the son gets up, puts on his dad’s cowboy boots, cowboy hat, starts singing his dad’s songs. He starts touring with the band. Eight years later he starts introducing rap into his dad’s music. He becomes the biggest Mexican singer, he decides to return to his dad’s hometown, and he’s found dead in an accident.

So we have that, and it’s wow. It’s fucking wow! Right? We have the life rights, we’re gonna make the movie, the wife-mom is excited. And then you go and try to make a Mexican-American story in the United States today and try and find funding. And it’s just the grind.

J.P.: Do you know if you’re in a movie that’s shit?

D.M.: Yes.

J.P.: How do you know?

D.M.: The script. It’s painful.

J.P.: But have you ever been in something where the script is good but it’s heading …

D.M.: No. Never. Not where the script was good and then they didn’t do a good job. I’ve been places where the script was mediocre and the directors were good enough to elevate it to good.

J.P.: You were in “Honey.” I liked “Honey.” Solid, good movie. When you’re working on “Honey” do you know what it is?

D.M.: Yes. Going in I was like, “I’m gonna try and do the best I can with a type of character that a lot of times people butcher, because they, like, overplay it.” Yo! Yo! Yo! I knew these guys from New York. I’ll just be those guys. So I wanted to do the method and be this character from beginning to end and do my best work. For what they wanted to do, it was exactly it. It was exactly what it should have been.

J.P.: A solid, enjoyable movie?

D.M.: Yeah. It’s fun. People loved that movie. People come up to me and are ecstatic about that movie. “They’re like, ‘Yo! You were that asshole!’” And I say, “Why was I that asshole? If she would have just slept with me, there wouldn’t have been a problem.” They love when I say that. “Yeah! You’re the man!” So it’s fun. I’m an actor. I get paid to act. I don’t control the rest of that stuff. When I wanted more control, I turned to directing. So now I’m directing my first film. As an actor, you talk to the director and say, “This doesn’t work right here” and the director is like, “That’s what really happened.” So you have to go do that.

J.P.: Have you ever had a real, true, hardcore conflict with a director?

D.M.: So I got a movie called Nearing Grace. And the first day on that film the director and I had a big blowout over whether I was going to wear a hat. I wanted a hat, and I wanted a hat for a number of reasons. One was, it’s sort of complicated. The character had extensions and I had long hair, and they had tried to dye the long hair. It was synthetic and they didn’t know it, so when they tried to dye it it stripped the color. So it was gray, and I was like 24-years old. I just looked freaky. It wasn’t gray like normal gray. It was metallic. And I was a hippie so I went looking all over Portland, Oregon, where we were shooting, and I found a straw hat, and it was cool for my character. I put it on, and it was also to help the makeup people. So first the producer leans her head in and she said, “Hey, how you doing?” And she saw the hat and I could tell she wasn’t thrilled and she walked away. An hour later the director walked in and he said, “Hey, I hear you’ve got a hat!” I was like, “What the fuck is this?” I was like, “Yeah! You like it?” He said, “No, I think you should take it off.” I was like, “Think about it. I really like it.” He said, “I have been thinking about it—for five years as I’ve been making this movie.” I was like, “Fine, I won’t wear the hat.” He goes, “Fine.” Bam! He slams the door. I found out later they had a discussion about firing me because they didn’t like my attitude. So I went into it without the hat, and the next day I went in and I had a heavy-duty crying scene. It’s one of my favorite films I’ve ever done, and the director and I became very good friends. The next day he saw he didn’t have to worry about me—I was in it. And so I wore the hat the rest of the shoot. I was living this guy, I was in Oregon, which is like hippie central. So fun.

And I would drive up into the mountains, take all my clothes off and swim in lakes. I remember I was swimming in this one lake and these Girl Scouts came around in a canoe and they were like, “Aggghhh!” and I was like, “Aggghhh!” I found my clothes, jumped in the car, ran away. But I was just this dude … very different than my Bronx kind of guy. It was fun.

J.P.: So I Google you, and there are 50 pictures of you and Kerry Washington. Is it weird that you’ll forever be attached visually to this woman you dated, and that she’s everywhere? You know what I mean?

D.M.: I do.

J.P.: Because usually when you break up with someone, that’s the end …

D.M.: They’re ghosts. They disappear. Is it weird? You have to come to terms with it. You know, we’re on relatively good terms so it’s not terrible. I’m not sure my wife enjoys it; she Googles me and my past shows up. But Kerry is smart, she’s pretty, she’s bad-ass. She should be on the cover of magazines. The only time it’s negative is I get phone calls from people who wanna stir the pot kind of stuff. Page 6—what do you think about this?

J.P.: They want you to be angry?

D.M.: Yeah. And I wish her the best.

J.P.: “He snidely said …”

D.M.: Yes! And you have to watch for that. You get people who interview you, and you think it’s a friendly thing, and I’m pretty open, and you come back and read something and you’re like, “What is this?”

J.P.: That won’t happen here.

D.M.: Thank you. Look, I’m extremely happily married. When Kerry and I were together, I was not good in relationships at all. So, like, I learned a lot from that relationship and the breakup of that relationship on how to be in a relationship and be good in a relationship and a good partner. Which I was not that person then. So she took one for the team basically, and Karen got the fruits of Kerry’s labor. Karen is a phenomenal woman. Smart, bad-ass, gorgeous, great personality. I’m just lucky I found another one who was just wonderful.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH DAVID MOSCOW:

• How did you meet your wife?: Three times. Once on a red carpet. She was PR, but we just said hello. She did PR when she just graduated college. Two, I hit on her at a bar and got her number, texted her ridiculous stuff like, “Do you cook? Do you clean? Do you read?” I thought I was being witty. I wasn’t. That was seven or eight years ago. And lastly she came to a party at my house. That was 5 ½ years ago.

• Five greatest actors of your lifetime: Daniel Day Lewis, early Philip Seymour Hoffman, young Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep. You know who I really like is Rod Steiger. Just brilliant. And Jeffrey Wright. Those are all amazing.

• Has Obama been a disappointment for you?: I have mixed feelings. I wrote an article for Huffington Post the day after the election that was basically like, He’s a centrist—liberals shouldn’t get very excited. The best thing that will happen to him is the left will be more free to do stuff; you won’t be under attack as much. And I think that’s the case. Particularly with the gay marriage stuff that just happened. I think Obamacare isn’t going to be real until there’s a public option. The droning and the going after whistleblowers and this last trade thing they did—terrible. But in general, he’s a centrist Democrat, and the country is moving to the left a lot. And that couldn’t have happened under a Romney.

• Five favorite athletes from your lifetime: Joe Morris—he was a Giant when I started liking football; Don Mattingly, Patrick Ewing, Jorge Posada. I really like Charles Oakley. And now it’s LeBron. First of all I hate Jordan. Everything I read about him sounds like he’s really evil. So I would like LeBron to be the greatest of all time. I think he’s great.

• The next president will be …: Hillary, I think. She’ll run against Marco Rubio. I think demographics are so leaning to the left, and Rubio will be on the wrong side of things that have already been determined. That time has passed.

• I’m gonna give you my least favorite line of any movie you’ve been in, and tell me why I’m wrong. The last scene of “Big” you say to your mom, “I missed you oh so much.” It just doesn’t sound like something a kid would say. Am I wrong?: No, it’s totally a movie line. It’s a movie line. It was ADRed—it was the first time I ever ADRed anything. The movie is done, you’re watching the movie and they say, “Say something here.” And they give you 20 lines and you just spit them out and they pick whichever they like best. I’ve already run inside, and it’s just Mercedes Ruehl and I talking inside the house. So I’m literally just like—they’re telling me to say this line, then another line, then another line. Then they pick one.

• Have you ever said to someone, “I miss you oh so much”?: No. But I can’t believe that’s the line. It’s from probably the best movie I’ve been in. It’s a great movie.

• Three memories from your appearance on Seinfeld: Oh, my gosh. That was cool. So the Broadway show I did, the guy who played my grandfather was Jerry Stiller. He happened to be on that episode, and his soon-to-be daughter-in-law was also on the episode. So my first memory was the audition process. I had flown out to LA, and my agents were like, “While you’re here, just audition and you’ll write it off on your taxes?” OK.  Then they said, “You wanna do Seinfeld?” I was freaking out—Seinfeld’s my favorite show. I called my brother. He was like, “Dude, no way!” So I go in and what was cool was in New York, it’s such a small actor community you know everybody, and then someone disappears and you think, “I haven’t seen What’s His Name around.” And it’s, “Oh, he moved to LA.” So I went to visit, and it was the first time I auditioned out here, and I saw so many people at the audition. I was auditioning for two people—the gang leader who seduces Kramer, and for one of the guys who George is interviewing. So I go in and I’m nervous and they’re laughing and laughing. And I started to realize they weren’t laughing at my performance. They were laughing at the lines—they loved their own jokes they were writing. Jerry was in there, I shook his hand. I got home that night and I got the call I was gonna go in on Tuesday. I called my brother, he flipped out. Then I went in on Tuesday. The coolest thing was, most shows you table read Monday morning, then rehearse Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Thursday night you perform before the live audience. With this, you did Tuesday half day, Wednesday full day, Thursday just in front of the audience. It was the shortest week. So the first day Tuesday I heard Jerry Stiller talking and he and his wife found me in my dressing room and were so warm. I became part of the legit team, and that was great.

And then, during the time when Jerry was getting a new deal from NBC, something like $1 million an episode, and the rest of the cast was negotiating. Some of the cast wanted to negotiate by themselves and the others wanted to negotiate as a team so they’d all get equal pay. There was dissension, who was going to do what. I was walking back from the green room toward the stage, and I got caught by the bleachers, and Jason Alexander and Michael Richards were behind the bleachers yelling at each other, and it was about the money. I couldn’t really move anywhere because they would see me, so I hung there three minuets in the dark as these two giants yelled at each other. And then I went on my way. Wild moment.

• Rank in order, favorite to least—Dave Winfield, kettle corn, Jessica Alba, The Avengers, Laguardia Airport, California Pizza Kitchen, Selena, outlet malls, “White Lines” (the song), clam chowder.: Clam chowder, Jessica Alba, White Lines, Laguardia, The Avengers, kettle corn, Winfield, outlet malls, Selena, CPK (because it isnt pizza!).

• Favorite book: That’s really hard. What was the last great book? This is such a strange book, but there’s a great book, “Guns, Germs and Steel”—the history of civilization and basically that civilization was environmentally determined.

Ten years from now is California heading to water apocalypse?: No. People survive. Do I think … if I were in charge I’d just start making rules. I’d be like, “Any new buildings have to have gray water systems, have to have the ability to catch water.” Los Angeles wouldn’t be in a drought if 1/10 of the buildings caught their own water. That’s it. But in the long run, people shouldn’t be living in deserts and you shouldn’t be growing things in deserts. We’re going to have to find that equilibrium where we’re able to survive. They’re starting to recognize there are problems.

  • http://www.wendyhagen.net/ TDM Wendy

    David is an interesting person with a such a variety of experience in his life. Next up – interview his dad?

  • Cd1515

    Fantastic interview Jeff, one of the best ever.
    THIS is what the Quaz is all about.

Showtime Book
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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life